Tis the season when I start obsessing about holiday teacher gifts for my children’s teachers. Let’s recap. I teach at the school my children attend. I like to give a sirsee to each teacher who works with my children, so I need close to twenty little gifts at a low cost. Since I am a teacher too, I (over) analyze the practicality of the gift and whether I think the teachers and administrators receiving these holiday treats will need them and use them– and like them.
After much consideration, I chose to make herb mixes in little jars. Over the holidays, people often have guests or extended family at their house and need group food or dips on hand. These herb mixes are easy to mix by adding sour cream or mayonnaise (or both). They look pretty in the jars, are easy to assemble in large quantities, and will keep if they are not used right away.
I found the recipe for the herb mixes at Bubbly Nature Creations. I tested the Fiesta Dip Mix, Italian Dip Mix, and Ranch Herb Dip Mix. The original recipes fit perfectly into the smaller jars with cork stoppers that I had. I ended up doubling the Fiesta Dip Mix and using 65 mL jars with a flip lid. The jars held roughly 1/4 c. of dry mix. I purchased the jars at Hobby Lobby.
I made Fiesta Dip Mix Labels to tie around the jars. I printed the labels on green cardstock and used my paper cutter to make sure the labels were cut evenly with straight edges. We glued each label onto a piece of red cardstock that was a little larger than the green label, punched a hole in the top, and tied to the jar with curly ribbon. The red paper border really isn’t necessary and made the label a little too long for the height of the jar. I will skip that detail next time.
Each year I like to have a gift idea I can produce in bulk to give to the “extra” teachers at school, support staff, neighbors, hosts at any Christmas parties we might attend, the mailman, etc…
Sewing Sister assembled cookie mixes in Mason jars a few years ago for teacher gifts, and I wanted to do something similar. My 4th grade students are running a Mason jar holiday cookie mix business to raise money for Water Missions International, so I did not want to double up on the cookies. Instead, I mass produced soup mixes. I think these will work well since every parent (adult?) I know loves to have an easy low prep weeknight meal on hand.
Apparently, I was not the only one with the Mason jar idea. Mason jar supplies were wiped out when I shopped this weekend. So, make sure you can purchase the jars before starting this project. Once you have sourced your supplies, gather your cheap labor (in my case, Mr. Star Wars and Miss Priss) and begin.
Pour ingredients in various mixing bowls and set up an assembly line in the correct order.
Roll a piece of 8 1/2″ x 11″ paper loosely and make a funnel with a wide opening but not too wide, so it will fit in the top of the jars. Tape the handmade funnel, so the shape will hold.
Give each assistant a 1/2 measuring cup and have them go down the line in order adding 1/2 cup of each ingredient. After each ingredient, lightly tap the jar on a flat surface to level the ingredient before adding the next item.
When it is time to add the macaroni noodles, add 1/2 cup then add up to 1/2 c. more until the noodles are about one inch under the neck of the jar. You need space to add the zip-type baggie of herbs before sealing with the lid.
We did all of the above steps first and left the jars open, then assembled the seasonings.
I delved into my massive collection of zip bags that I get from the bead department at Michael’s Crafts. I used 3″ x 5″ baggies and did most of the seasoning assembly since the herbs sort of static to the sides of the bag, and it was messier than the jar assembly. I know we have a few vegetarian teachers, so I separated the beef bouillon from the other herbs and had two zip bags in a few of the jars.
Add a seasoning packet to the top of the jar and seal.
I printed labels on white and green cardstock. One side had the preparation instructions, and the other side had a holiday greeting. I am not a fan of play-on-word cutesy notes for teacher gifts, but I am a fan of “professional” looking labels in coordinating colors. If you are up for this extra time suck detail, you really need to invest in a paper cutter. We hole punched the corners of the tags and attached with curly ribbon. Alternately, you could print the directions on adhesive labels and stick them to the sides of the jars.
We also made chicken noodle soup mix in 1 pint jars. The smaller sized jars were much easier to find. We followed roughly the same procedure. Any teachers with young children are getting the chicken noodle soup mix. Click here for the Chicken Noodle Soup Mix in a Jar ingredient list and directions.
Is anyone else working on a gift in bulk to have on hand this holiday? There were many tasty looking mixes when I Googled “mason jar recipes” so you could take this idea and run with it.
I kicked off the holiday shopping season with the personalized rubber stamps for Miss Priss’ and Mr. Star Wars’ teachers. Personalized seems to be the theme for me this year. I usually keep a list going all year (yes, I am that OCD) and jot down ideas as people mention things. When holiday shopping season officially starts, I review the list and try to come up with ideas that might apply to several people, so I can order more than one of the same thing. I have a brother and two sisters who all have kids plus TheRoomDad’s family. We try to do a little something for each family group, so the list gets pretty long.
Here are some gift ideas on my “to buy” list this year, and most of them are personalized in some way. That usually means a longer ship time, so I better get on the stick!
Monogrammed Jewelry: I know my tween nieces would love necklaces like this because they keep pinning these types of things. I also think they are great gifts for my mom, sisters, and sisters-in law.
Monogrammed Scarves: I love all of the color choices for these scarves. I would also do something like this with a pashmina. Find pashminas at a local store and take them to a monogrammer. FYI– This would make a great teacher gift. Classroom temperatures can be difficult to regulate!
Personalized Wrapping Paper: One thing I like about this gift is that it is consumable, so it does not have to be stored for very long.
Mini Photo Books: These books are set up like board books. I think they make great personalized gifts for little people and grandparents to share when visiting.
Custom Ornament: My parents have a collection of paintings of all of the houses where they have lived. We moved a lot, so the collection is large. These ornaments reminded me of the paintings. It would be fun to order ornaments with a different house every year.
Fort Kit: This one is not a personalized gift but a DIY gift. Fill a drawstring bag with supplies to build a fort like plain sheets and clothespins. I think this is so clever.
Anyone else have a successful shopping strategy or great ideas that will work for several people? You could also return to last year’s gift list for a little inspiration.
Well, it is here. The final post for Christmas gift ideas. This year will be the tenth anniversary of our family calendar. Not only do I include family photos and all of the standard holidays, my family calendar has all school dates and special school events for the grandkids. If it is your birthday or anniversary, a picture of you is on that calendar day. If you have a special reunion or favorite sport event, it is highlighted.
I would be lost without this calendar. I know my mom would too. It helps me keep track of my siblings and their families since we don’t live very close to each other. It also acts like a little yearbook. When I started giving this gift, my second niece had just been born. Now there are 9 grandkids in our family! What special traditions do you have for your extended family?
The Template: I built a massive Word document with tables and text boxes. Each year, I open the old calendar and update the months. I just checked out Shutterfly, and they now offer the option to customize the small “day” squares as well as the photos in the top page where the name of the month is listed. I am sure other photo websites are beginning to offer more flexibility in what you can add to your calendar. I may change over to Shutterfly this year after testing out the options.
The Months: I include pictures that relate to the specific month. For example, April this past year had all of the Easter pictures of the grandkids. If there is a month that does not have related pictures, I can dedicate that page to the grandparents or one specific sibling and his/her family.
The Dates: It is usually pretty easy to go to school websites and get a calendar of the current academic year. I cannot always get the dates for the following academic year, so sometimes school dates won’t go beyond June. I also include items like Final 4 (for my dad and brother) and Kentucky Derby (for my husband) and Mardi Gras (for me). It is fun to add dates that are not national holidays but are special events for my family.
The Photos: I keep a file on my computer throughout the year. Any time a family member forwards a picture, I save it to my calendar folder. OK, I will be honest. I have a main calendar folder with sub-folders of all the past calendars listed by year. Within those sub-folders are 12 sub-sub-folders, so everything can be saved by month.
The Printing: I save the document as a PDF and have it printed at FedEx Office. It is color printed on white cardstock, front and back. I have spiral binding inserted at the top and ask for a hole to be drilled at the bottom for hanging.
Thank You: Thank you, Beth. You inspired me to start this tradition many years ago when I saw a calendar your sister made for all of your family members!
Sometimes it is nice to give a gift that won’t be around forever. I know when I am trying to find new homes for all of the fabulous gifts we receive at Christmas, I like to have one or two that will be eaten or used and won’t need a specific space on a shelf. Over the past several years, I have given and received some great consumable Christmas gifts. Gift cards fall into this category as well, but I tried to list non-gift card ideas. I am thinking about restaurant gift cards this year– any thoughts?
BBQ Seasonings: My husband loves to grill. Not only have I given him the BBQ judging weekend with friends, which I think qualifies as a consumable gift (?), my kids and I gave him a box of spices and rubs. We went to Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s to hunt around for things like smoked sea salt and roasted cayenne powder.
Hello, Cupcake!: OK– so this is not a totally consumable gift. It allows you to make something that is consumable. Sewing Sister loves things like decorating cupcakes, so I gave her the Hello, Cupcake! cookbook and included supplies she would need for the recipes. I added things like white cupcake wrappers, Ziploc bags, and a small clear roller to flatten candies.
Magazine Subscriptions: One year all of the parents, sisters, brothers, brother-in-laws, and sister-in-laws received a magazine subscription. We like gossip-y magazines in my house, so I sent subscriptions to Life & Style, which is a little junkier than US but not quite as trashy as Star (I thought it was the perfect middle ground for a guilty pleasure). The men received ESPN Magazine. Other subscriptions that make good gifts for my family are Martha Stewart’s Everyday Food or the Sunday delivery of the New York Times.
Wolferman’s: My brother usually sends Wolferman’s English muffins to each family household a few weeks before Christmas, so we can eat them during the holiday break. They are fabulous English muffins. My favorite are the cheddar flavored. I toast well and spread with lots of butter and strawberry jam. There are multiple gift packages on the website from which to choose.
Omaha Steaks: The steaks (or other meats) are shipped overnight in dry ice. Since my husband grills, my parents usually send us a little Omaha Steaks meat care package at Christmas. It is great to have steaks, hamburgers, or pork chops on hand in the freezer.